3/25/07

Shiro's Sushi Restaurant

Neighborhood: Belltown
Address: 2401 2nd Ave Seattle (map)
Phone: 206-985-6870
Web: www.shiros.com
Parking: Street

Overall Rating: 9.4 / 10pts

ATMOSPHERE:
Located on the 2nd Ave and corner of Battery St., Shiro's Sushi Restaurant, doesn't necessarily look that fancy from the outside. Actually it's not super fancy looking once you step inside either (compared to fine seafood restaurants near the waterfront). But what makes this place the most talked about sushi place in Seattle is the owner/chef, Shiro Kashiba, who trained in Tokyo, Japan, and has been in Seattle since 1966. But because of it's popularity, recently it had turned into more of a touristy spot. Does the food taste good? Absolutely, but is it worth the wait and dining in the packed house with slower service? Probably not, as there are other great options nearby such as Saito's who provide just as high quality of fish without all the hassle of touristy people.

SUSHI:
The master sushi chef, Shiro is probably the most famous sushi chef in Seattle. His name had appeared on almost every cuisine magazines and newspapers, and continues to do so. His sushi does indeed taste excellent and fresh, as he claims to personally select the fish every morning at various markets. The price is a little higher than your average sushi joints, but in Belltown recently, it maybe considered to be average.

OTHER DISHES:
They have decent selection of sake, which is nice. And their house specials are tasty as well. With so many people wanting to try Shiro's sushi, your sushi may take a while to show up (unless you are one of the luckily few that got the counter seat), so it's wise to order some appetizers as you wait. Gyoza in particular cooked to perfection. It was crispy on the outside and juicy in the inside (hard to find good fried gyoza in Seattle).

SERVICE:
Like I said before, since the place is always packed with people wanting to check out the so called "best sushi place in Seattle" the service is a little slower than your average sushi place as Shiro's sushi order is always backed up. The staff is usually pretty good about telling you that "your sushi should be coming soon" except it feels like long time. At least it's nice to know that they are "coming soon."

3/16/07

Dragonfish

Neighborhood: Downtown
Address: 722 Pine St. Seattle (map)
Phone: 206-467-7777
Web: www.dragonfishcafe.com
Parking: Street / Paid

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 10pts

ATMOSPHERE:
This slightly upscale restaurant is located in the heart of downtown. It’s often crowded and the food is expensive, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a good sushi restaurant. The food is over-priced Asian fusion cuisine. Young business people and tourists staying at downtown hotels fill up the restaurant. Unlike many sushi restaurants, Dragonfish has a full bar, but that is one of the few good points of the restaurant. But don’t drink too much at the bar because you have to leave the restaurant and go to the hotel it is connected to, find an elevator and go upstairs to get to the bathroom.

SUSHI:
It’s a good thing they call themselves an Asian Fusion restaurant because they don’t serve any authentic sushi here. The only “sushi” they have here is rolls, and frankly they aren’t very good. The Bossa Nova Roll (ahi tuna, kaiware sprouts, nova salmon) has way too much wasabi for any sane person, leaving only a burning sensation in your mouth. Sesame & Soy Marinated Tuna is really oily and only tastes like sesame oil. Maybe that’s how they cover up the fact that they don’t have any authentic sushi chefs or know where to buy fresh fish.

OTHER DISHES:
Most of the things on the menu sound fancy (is that the fusion part?) but they all taste quite plain. If they charged $5/plate for their food, it would be more understandable, but for chicken yakisoba that is $12.85 and just tastes “okay”, it’s a rip off. You can get much better chicken yakisoba on the Ave for half the price.

SERVICE:
Talk about slow service - the hostess was literally moving in slow motion. She took 82 seconds to put a check mark on her table list, and 47 seconds to grab menus, which were right next to her. Then she took 54 seconds to move out from behind her podium and finally led us to our table. You may be picturing a very large woman or someone with a wooden peg leg, but that was not the case. She was just extremely slow. She wasn’t the only slow one. The place was maybe half full, but it took them 10 minutes to take our drink order and another 10 minutes to bring the drinks.

3/14/07

Kozue

Neighborhood: Wallingford
Address: 1608 N 45th St Seattle (map)
Phone: 206-547-2008
Web: www.kozue-on-45th.com
Parking: Street

Overall Rating: 8.5 / 10pts

ATMOSPHERE:
Kozue is a small, casual restaurant in Wallingford (on NE 45th St). It’s not as expensive as many other sushi restaurants in Seattle, and you notice this as soon as you step in the door because the atmosphere is more or less like a cheap Thai restaurant with a mom-and-pop feel. But don’t let this discourage you because the food is good, and it’s cheap. If you are a student with a tight budget but still want to enjoy decent sushi, you will fit right in with the rest of the crowd.

SUSHI:
Although nothing stands out as superb or memorable, overall they serve fairly fresh and decent tasting sushi. They stick to their menu, and don’t go out of their way to get seasonal fresh fish. If you ask them, “what’s fresh today?” they simply respond, “everything is fresh” and offer no recommendations.

OTHER DISHES:
They offer a lot more traditional Japanese dishes than most places, and you may have a hard time choosing what you want to eat. Their tempura is pretty good, but sometimes, it is coated in a little too much batter. Hamachi Kama (grilled yellowtail cheeks) is offered at a decent price, and sukiyaki is always fun to try. But if you are new to this place and want to try various things on the menu, try a combo meal.

SERVICE:
Service is usually pretty good, but some of the waitresses are more knowledgeable about the menu than others. Kozue is usually not too crowded, so the food comes out fairly quickly.

3/12/07

[CLOSED] Saito's Japanese Cafe & Bar

Neighborhood: Belltown
Address: 2120 2nd Ave Seattle (map)
Phone: 206-728-1333
Web: www.saitos-cafe.com
Parking: Street

Overall Rating: 9.7 / 10pts

ATMOSPHERE:
From the outside, you would never think it’s a fancy Japanese sushi restaurant. In fact it’s quite hard to spot with no bright signs and you may walk past it without even knowing it’s there. But be sure to make the effort to seek it out because the interior is quite upscale with candlelight and Japanese d├ęcor. The sushi counter is especially fancy and draws your attention.

SUSHI:
Saito’s offers some of the freshest fish in Seattle. The sushi is expertly prepared by Mr. Saito. If you get a chance to sit at the counter you should do so because the sushi chefs are exciting to watch with their speedy and precise sushi-making techniques. Also they can offer suggestions for fresh fish of the day or unusual types of fish that aren’t on the menu and you won’t find anywhere else in Seattle. If you are not too sure which fish to order they offer two types of sushi combos (one is around $20 and the other “omakase” is around $30). Their fresh sushi and sashimi particularly go well with their wide selection of chilled sake. Both the sushi and sake are offered at a premium price, but they are worth it for special occasions or when you want to splurge.

OTHER DISHES:
Although most of the food they offer here is pretty good, I recommend sticking to the sushi, since this is probably the best sushi place in Seattle (so far).

SREVICE:
If you manage to sit at the counter, the service is really quick because the sushi chefs work quickly and serve the people at the counter first. The table service is also good, and most of the wait staff speaks Japanese and can answer most questions about the menu.

3/11/07

Chiso

Neighborhood: Fremont
Address: 3520 Fremont Ave N (map)
Phone: 206-632-3430
Web: www.chisoseattle.com
Parking: Street

Overall Rating: 9.5 / 10pts

ATMOSPHERE:
Chiso is a stylish, modern restaurant with a relaxing environment. It’s slightly more upscale than many of the neighboring bars and restaurants in Fremont, and is a great place to go for a relaxing meal or late-night snack. For the ultimate experience, sit at the sushi counter and strike up a conversation with the friendly owner, Taichi, while enjoying the fresh fish of the day. If you come with a group, there are tables that can accommodate larger groups, but reservations are recommended for groups, especially on weekends.

SUSHI:
Chiso’s owner, Taichi, personally selects and tastes each fish, so he knows what is fresh each day. There are usually several fresh fish selections that are not on the menu, so be sure to ask what is fresh and what is available. The sockeye salmon and oysters are particularly good when they are fresh.

OTHER DISHES:
In addition to great sushi, Chiso also offers an array of traditional Japanese side dishes. The agedashi tofu (fried tofu in a Japanese soup stock), yakitori (skewered chicken), and kasuzuki (cod that has been soaked in sake and then grilled) are especially good at Chiso. Hamachi kama (grilled yellowtail cheeks) is another delicious dish, but due to it’s popularity, they often run out. Their meat dishes are less consistent than their fish dishes, but are usually tasty as well. If you are a vegetarian, Chiso offers a variety of vegetarian dishes to choose from.

SERVICE:
The staff members at Chiso are generally friendly and knowledgeable. They can recommend fresh fish of the day, and sake to go along with the fish. They are also happy to explain any of the side dishes if you have questions about them. Some of the staff speaks Japanese as well. If the restaurant is crowded and there’s a long wait for a table, give them your phone number and ask them to call you when your table is ready (so you can have a drink at on of the nearby bars while you wait for your table at Chiso).

3/7/07

Blue C Sushi [Fremont]

Neighborhood: Fremont
Address: 3411 Fremont Ave N (map)
Phone: 206-632-3430
Web: www.bluecsushi.com
Parking: Validated 90 min parking

Overall Rating: 7.1 / 10pts

ATMOSPHERE:
Blue C Sushi is a kaiten sushi restaurant which means it has a conveyer belt that carries sushi around the restaurant and you can choose what you want to eat from the conveyer belt. The sushi is placed on different colored plates which correspond to different prices. If you are not familiar with sushi or just getting started, this is a great place to start because you get to see the sushi go by right in front of your eyes and decide what looks good to you. There is a bar upstairs with Happy Hour specials. Blue-C in Fremont attracts a younger crowd, college students and young business people.

SUSHI:
Disneyland doesn’t offer best food, and nobody remembers what they ate for lunch in the Fantasy World, but it sure is fun to be there. And that’s what eating at Blue-C Sushi is like. You don’t particularly remember how good the sushi is, but you remember seeing octopus sushi coming up past you from your blind spot or the young blonde girl making sushi behind the conveyer. If you are a sushi connoisseur, you probably won’t approve of their sushi that was made in a mold instead of by hand, but if your non-sushi-connoisseur relatives are visiting from out of town, take them here.

OTHER DISHES:
It’s not just the sushi you see on the colored plates. If someone doesn’t like any type of sushi, then they can choose to pick up fried chicken or yakisoba that comes around. Their chicken katsu is generally pretty good. If you love sweets, try their cream puffs or cheese cake. Their desserts are made fresh daily by a Japanese pastry chef and tastes great (not too sweet!)

SERVICE:
Since you are grabbing the food that comes floating in front of your eyes, the service is really fast. If you are really hungry and don’t want to wait 2 minutes, it’s great because you sit down and grab the first plate that comes by. Since they don’t offer any unusual sushi here, the wait staff usually know the general difference between yellow tail and ahi tuna. If you want a certain fish that you don’t see on the belt, you can shout out whatever it is that you want, and the chef behind the counter could make it for you (using the mold).

3/4/07

Sushi Restaurants in Seattle

List of sushi restaurants in Seattle



CAPITOL HILL:
- Aoki's
- Vi Bacchus

[BELLTOWN]:
- Saito's
- Shiro's
- Umi
- Wasabi Bistro
- Wann


[DOWNTOWN]:
- Benihana
- Red Bowl
- Rice-n-Roll
- Rolls n Sushi
- Dragonfish

[FREMONT]:
- Blue C Sushi
- Chiso

INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT:
- Fuji Sushi
- Isami

[U-DISTRICT]:
- Blue C Sushi
- Village Sushi

[WALLINGFORD]:
- Kozue
- Musashi


Introduction

Since I am Japanese and enjoyed eating sushi at least once a week when I lived in Japan, people are always asking me, "so where is the best place to eat sushi. I want to hear from the expert."

I never particularly considered myself to be an expert or sushi connoisseur, but whenever my friends and I tried new sushi places, I found myself commenting about the freshness of sushi and the restaurant atmosphere, comparing to how it was in Japan. And I also found myself complaining at most places claiming things like, "this isn't really sushi" or "you would never see this in Japan (in a negative tone)" A lot of my friends, whether they agreed with me or not, were intrigued with my comments and suggested that I should try out bunch of sushi places in Seattle and rank which places are most authentic.

Before you read my reviews, I should warn you that to a lot of people in Japan, they take sushi very seriously. To become a sushi chef in Japan, you have to spend years and years learning the craft before you are allowed to stand behind the counter to serve the customers. Some are so good that they can put exacly same amout of grain of rice in each sushi. Now that is impressive. Because of that, I won't even attempt to make sushi on my own, even though I have been cooking Japanese food for many years, and I think I'm pretty good at it.

So when I go to some "sushi" restaurant and see an American chef (or even Japanese chef) in his 20s standing behind the counter, it is hard for me to take the place seriously. If some place serve sushi with side dish of kimchee, I can't rank it too high either. Don't get me wrong. I like kimchee, but sometimes, the smell of kimchee is so strong that I have a hard time tasting the sushi. Usually those places tend to have better bulgogi than sushi anyway.

My coworkers recommended some of their favorite sushi places, and I noticed that these places only offered Americanized rolls. Most of the popular rolls here in the States such as California Roll or Spider Roll, aren't considered to be real sushi by most Japanese people. There are sushi rolls in Japan, like futomaki or kappa maki, but those are always made with seaweed on the outside, and never ever find cream cheese or avocado inside them. Plus, a lot of the times, they normally put not-as-fresh fish in the rolls since it's harder to tell the freshness of the fish in a roll. I eat these Americanized rolls occasionally and think they are tasty at times, but I don't particularly think of them as sushi either, and I never have any cravings for them either.